Chia seeds are one of the most powerful, functional, and nutritious superfoods in the world. The chia seed is an amazing source of fiber and protein. It is full of antioxidants and vitamins, minerals and is the richest plant source of omega-3. Yes, even better than flaxseeds.
A member of the mint family the plant is Salvia Hispanica and grows in southern Mexico. Chia seeds were a daily component of the Aztec and Mayan diets. It was thought that 1 T of the seeds could sustain a person for 24 hours. Aztecs also used chia medicinally to relieve joint pain and skin conditions. It was a major crop in central and southern Mexico well into the 16th century, but it was banned after the Spanish conquest because of its association with the Aztec “pagan” religion.
Easy to grow
Over the past few decades, commercial production has resumed in Latin America. Insects don’t like the plant, so organic seeds are easy to obtain but since there are no pests on the plants, almost all Chia is grown organically or without chemicals. Where flaxseed has a very sort shelf life, Chia can be stored for years without getting rancid and the seeds don’t require grinding like the flaxseed, to be able to digest.
2 tablespoons or 25 grams–give you 7 g of fiber as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, niacin, and zinc. More antioxidants than Blueberries. More omega-3 than salmon. More Fiber than bran flakes, more Calcium than 2% milk, more Protein, Fiber & Calcium than flax seeds. These humble seeds give you a boost of energy that lasts also providing stamina and endurance. Chia Seeds Reduce Cravings because they absorb so much water and have high soluble fiber levels, they help release natural, unrefined carbohydrate energy slowly into the bloodstream. They are easy to digest and the fiber content actually helps in that digestion.
Chia is 16 percent protein, 31 percent fat, and 44 percent carbohydrate of which 38 percent is fiber. Most of its fat is the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20 (2007).
The Chia seed has gotten very little press and only a little research since it’s revival, but expect much more soon.
In a preliminary study from the University of Toronto, researchers fed 21 diabetics either a supplement made from chia or grains with similar fiber content. After 3 months, blood pressure in patients taking chia dropped (10 points diastolic, 5 points systolic) while the grain group’s BP remained steady.
Taste & Uses
The Chia seed has a nutty flavor. Use them whole on cereal, yogurt or salads. Mix them into your trail mix. They can be ground and mixed with flour when baking as their nutritional content isn’t effected by heat.
The seeds have a natural affinity to water and when soaked in water create a gelatinous liquid which is just the soluble fiber releasing, that can be used as a kind of binder in cooking. In Mexico, Chia is used to create a drink called Chia Fresca. Stir 2 T of Chia seeds into 8 to 10 oz of water. Add lime or lemon, sugar to taste and you have a nutritious health drink.
ways to prepare and use the seeds
1. Make Chia Gel -Chia Gel can be a healthy substitute for milk, eggs, butter, or oil.
- Mix 1/3 cup of chia seeds with 2 cups of water.
- Whisk together briskly.
- Let the mixture rest for about fifteen minutes.
- Whisk one more time.
- Put the mixture in a sealed container and refrigerate.
- Chia gel will keep 3 weeks in the fridge.
- 1 egg = 3 T water and 1 T chia seeds either whole or ground
2. Chia Flour
You can also enjoy the health benefits of chia seeds when you grind them into flour. You can do this yourself or purchase ready-made chia flour. Use chia flour to bake pizza crust, pies, bread, cookies, biscuits, and anything else. Combine it with whole wheat or barley flour. Experiment with the ratios until you get what you like. Of course you can also use chia flour alone, but it might take some practice. Chia is gluten-free so there isn’t a problem with that.
3. Chia Butter
Chia butter is a great low-fat, high-protein alternative to regular butter. There is still real butter in the recipe but it’s only half. So you get the creamy flavor of butter, but only 1/2 the fat, and you get the additional health benefits of chia.
- Take equal proportions of chia gel to softened butter. Around 3 to 4 oz of each.
- Combine them together in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- Put in an airtight container and refrigerate.
- Use the chia butter anywhere you would use normal butter – on toast, for cooking and baking, or as a sandwich spread.
- Try adding some fresh herbs and spices for a savory butter
- Try adding a teaspoon of agave nectar and a handful of ground almonds, spread on toast and sprinkle with cinnamon
Nutrition experts recommend you take 1-4 tablespoons per day of chia seeds. You can receive the health benefits through chia ingested raw or cooked. Try and take a little chia every day so that your body experiences long-term benefits from the regular intake of omega 3, vitamin B, calcium, potassium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, and many other fundamental nutrients.
I have read that there is no need to worry about “overdosing” – chia is a 100% natural food and presents no damaging side effects. Any extra nutrients should simply pass through your body. So you should be able to eat as much chia as you like!
I conclude that everyone needs Chia seeds in their diet. If you are wondering, the old Chia pets are these same Chia seeds. You should be able to find Chia seeds in white or black at least in the health food department of your store for around $10 -12 per lb. If you can’t find it, it will be available through the Fat Farm Store with links below. – jughandle